In a previous article I discussed how no-limit players face certain challenges when jumping into the increasingly popular fixed-limit games that are part of mixed-game and H.O.R.S.E. rotations. There I talked primarily about how implied odds work differently (and are less significant) in limit games as opposed to no-limit.
Because of that big difference, the way you play your hand in limit is going to be very different from how you'd play the same cards in no limit. Today I want to explore five more ways NL players have to adjust their thinking when playing in limit games.
1. Play Much More Selectively Preflop
Since limit doesn't have the huge implied odds that no-limit has, it's much more important to avoid situations with long drawing odds. Put simply, you should chase less in limit than in no-limit.
In limit, you are awarded far less when your long shots come in. So you don't want to play them. Low suited connectors should be less appealing to play if the hand is raised preflop. Same thing for low pairs. Unless nearly everyone is in preflop, you can't get the pot odds to justify set mining or to go for other long shot draws.
2. Press Your Advantages Early
Because the amount you can win in later streets is so much more limited in limit, you need to press your advantages when you have them. When you have a strong hand, you're looking to extract extra bets whenever you can. Accordingly, you will be more likely to raise preflop, especially in position, with medium pairs and with big cards like , , and .
3. Play Much More Selectively on the Flop
I'm not suggesting that you have to always play "fit or fold" poker, but in limit games you certainly want to lean more in that direction than in no-limit. In no-limit you can justify getting out of line early since you can use bet sizing later to cause your opponent to make stack-sized errors. Not so with limit, when your ability to make money is so circumscribed.
Put another way, you can't get as creative with your line of play on the flop, because the play after the flop will tend to be much more straightforward, and the reward for fooling your opponent comparatively smaller.
4. Call More on the River
The bet on the river is likely to be a very small percentage of the size of the pot, which means you're getting much better pot odds for your call than is often the case with river bets in no-limit.
Looked at another way, a typical limit pot might be 10 times the size of that final-round "big bet." That means if you make a mistake by calling incorrectly on the river you're only losing a single bet, but if you fold incorrectly you've made a pot-sized mistake that is 10 times greater than your error of folding incorrectly. Unless you are nearly certain that you are beaten, you should call a bet on the river in limit hold'em.
5. Check-Raise More Frequently
There's check-raising in no-limit, of course, but it's a much more important and frequently used tool in limit games. You need to use it for two reasons chiefly.
First off, to gain an advantage in limit games you must pick up extra bets when you can, and check-raising is one means by which to get an extra bet in on a given round. Similarly, since the bet is limited, it carries much less clout when you are trying to force other players out of the pot. You must use the check-raise to increase the power of your betting action to get opponents to fold. In no-limit you can exert such pressure with the size of your bet — an option not available to you in limit.
In many games, when playing limit, it's often going to be the steady, consistent, by-the-book strategy that will win the money. Tend to play tight in the early betting round, but don't fold to a bet on the river unless you're sure you're beaten. Endeavour to win the extra bet whenever possible.
In limit it's important that you consistently press your advantages at every opportunity, and not try to fool your opponent into making stack-sized errors as is a goal in no-limit.
Ashley Adams has been playing poker for 50 years and writing about it since 2000. He is the author of hundreds of articles and two books, Winning 7-Card Stud (Kensington 2003) and Winning No-Limit Hold'em (Lighthouse 2012). He is also the host of poker radio show House of Cards. See www.houseofcardsradio.com for broadcast times, stations, and podcasts.